Chelsea’s Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly has joined Saudi Pro League club Al-Hilal.
Kalidou Koulibaly has become the latest Chelsea player to relocate to Saudi Arabia, signing for Al-Hilal for an unknown price.
The 32-year-old centre-back joins Ruben Neves at the Saudi Pro League club following the £47 million transfer of the Wolves midfielder.
N’Golo Kante, a Chelsea midfielder, has agreed to join Saudi champions Al-Ittihad, while teammate Edouard Mendy is close to joining Al-Ahli.
Koulibaly joined Chelsea from Napoli on a four-year contract in July.
After helping Napoli win the Italian Cup in 2020 and Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations in 2022, he arrived at Stamford Bridge with European and international experience.
However, he only appeared in 32 games for the club across all competitions, scoring two goals in 23 Premier League appearances.
“It was an honor to wear this badge from my first game to my last,” Koulibaly stated on Twitter.
“Last season wasn’t what we wanted, but I want to thank the fans and everyone at the club for your support.”
Chelsea did not reveal how much Al-Hilal paid for Koulibaly, although reports claim it may be up to £20 million.
Koulibaly’s entry in Saudi Arabia continues a recent trend among European teams that began with Cristiano Ronaldo’s January transfer from Manchester United to Al-Nassr.
Why are Premier League players being signed by the Saudi Pro League?
Karim Benzema followed from Real Madrid to Al-Ittihad at the end of the season, while Thomas Partey of Arsenal and Bernardo Silva of Manchester City have also been widely connected with moves in recent weeks.
The trend underscores the league’s aim to be one of the top five in the world, and it comes on the heels of a June decision by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns Newcastle United, to take over four of the country’s leading clubs.
Although club officials have denied any direct involvement, it is unclear whether PIF owns an interest in Chelsea’s ultimate owners, the private equity group Clearlake Capital.
Despite this, four of the club’s players are expected to join the Saudi Pro League by the end of the summer, with Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech also connected with a move.
These departures are part of a larger process underway at Stamford Bridge as new manager Mauricio Pochettino restructures his squad.
Germany’s Kai Havertz is set to join Arsenal in a £65 million deal, while Manchester City has had a £30 million proposal accepted for Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic.
Chelsea’s rebuild has also seen the arrival of France forward Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig, and Villarreal’s Senegal attacker Nicolas Jackson is said to have had a medical in London this weekend ahead of a move.